It might be spring in Australia, but Mid-Autumn Festival starts tomorrow. Which means for much of the East Asian diaspora, mooncake season has officially begun.
The harvest celebration originated over 2000 years ago and falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. Friends and families gather, light lanterns and often share mooncakes – a pastry that takes many forms.
The festival is celebrated in China as well as many Asian countries, and mooncake varieties vary by region. They can be baked or unbaked, sweet or savoury, and are traditionally made using wooden moulds (although modern creations are usually made with cookie stamp-like plastic moulds that come in a variety of patterns).
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Here are seven mooncakes from eight Melbourne makers we’ll be celebrating with this year.
Arguably the most recognisable mooncakes, Cantonese mooncakes are golden pastries filled with a lotus seed paste and a salted egg yolk centre.
Suz’s Cake Lab
This small-batch bakery is a go-to for Cantonese mooncakes. They’re made in St Kilda and feature intricate designs such as goldfish and pagodas.
Hong Kong custard mooncakes
These treats were created in the Spring Moon Restaurant kitchen at the Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel and first debuted in 1986. The custard mooncakes are made using a European-style cookie crust rather than the pastry of Cantonese mooncakes.
Pastry chef Joey Leung has been making mooncakes since she was a kid growing up in Hong Kong. Leung started making custard mooncakes to sell back in 2020, when the pandemic increased demand for the treats. She also makes miso black sesame, Uji hatcha and Uji hojicha mooncakes and recommends warming up the mooncakes before eating so the rich custard melts in your mouth.
Chaoshan-style or thousand-layer Mooncakes
Made using a laminated pastry that often contains lard or shortening, these flaky spiralised pastries can be stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.
Mooncake drops at Raymond Tan’s homey Malaysian bakery on Little Collins Street are almost as sought-after as new Supreme collabs. This year, Raya is offering six mooncakes: three Cantonese-style treats and three flaky thousand-layer ones which come in ube mochi, pandan drommekage, and yuzu with peanut candy.
These unbaked mooncakes are made by wrapping filling in a mochi-like skin made from glutenous rice flour.
Soon Guan Delicacies
Baker Chee Ying is the one-woman force behind Soon Guan Delicacies. Ying makes intricate flaky thousand-layer mooncakes, but her snow-skin versions, which get their marbled colour from natural fruit and vegetable powders, are standouts. They come in three flavours: Musang King durian, matcha red bean and Earl Grey lemon cream cheese.
This Instagram bakery specialises in pastel-coloured snow-skin mooncakes. Their delicate cakes come in six flavours: durian, taro, match, chocolate, Oreo, and red bean.
Shanghainese mooncakes are traditionally flakier than their Cantonese counterparts and are made using short-crust pastry.
Eleven sweet and savoury mooncakes including prawn; nori, pork floss and salted egg yolk; and black truffle and pork. Durian mooncakes are available at New Shanghai at Melbourne Central and Chadstone Shopping Centre.
Taiwanese 3Q mooncakes
“Q” or “QQ” is a way of denoting texture. In Taiwan, Q is a sought-after texture that means a dish has a desirable bounciness (similar to what may be experienced from well-prepared tapioca pearls in a bubble tea drink). 3Q Taiwanese mooncakes are named for the “Q” textured mochi that, along with red bean paste, pork floss and salted egg yolk, is wrapped in flaky pastry.
Er Rin Tan started making mooncakes when she immigrated from Malaysia to Australia in 2008 and struggled to find the high-quality mooncakes she was used to seeing back home. Tan’s Amour Desserts sells snow-skin mooncakes, Cantonese lotus seed paste and salted egg yolk mooncakes and is one of the only businesses in Melbourne selling Taiwanese 3Q mooncakes.
Exactly as the name suggests, these mooncakes are made using ice-cream.
The Thornbury ice-creamery from the team behind Henry Sugar has created a mooncake-ice-cream-sandwich hybrid. A sphere of lotus seed paste is hidden in salted duck egg yolk ice-cream which is then sandwiched between two discs made from Cantonese-style mooncake pastry.